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SIMMONS: A night with the poor not necessary to understand poverty

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Happy birthday to us.

With many of my colleagues, I spent Tuesday evening listening, meeting, greeting and breaking bread with people honoring The Washington Times' 30th anniversary and paying homage to our founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who was called home last month.

Many of the lively discussions, as you might imagine, spun around liberal and conservative points of view on everything from faith and family values, which are cornerstones of The Times, to stinging criticism of the Obama administration's defense and national security policies from former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Post-celebration chatter was engaging, too.

I asked a guest what Mitt Romney could do to get a bird's-eye view of struggling Americans.

"Romney nailed his coffin with his comments about the 47 percent," criminal defense lawyer DeLois Steverson Nicholas, who worked in the Johnson administration, said of the Republican presidential nominee.

Then she added: "He needs to spend a night in the projects with people who are not as fortunate as he is."

In other words, she said Mr. Romney needs to know what poverty looks like.

I'm not sure you need to live in poverty or even be an acquaintance of someone who is poor to know what poverty looks like.

Being a member of the faith, hope and charity crowd seems to be one of humanity's strongest suits, regardless of which rung you are perched on along the lengthy economic ladder.

But when you are a candidate for president, you must tread honestly.

Take John Edwards.

Born to working-class parents, he later became a wealthy and successful trial lawyer, and as a politician supported anti-poverty programs.

I haven't a clue as whether Mr. Edwards ever set foot in the projects or laid his head down in close proximity to poor people once he could afford $400 coifs.

I do know this, however: Using black children from New Orleans' post-Katrina devastated 9th Ward as props to announce his 2008 political ambitions ticked me off.

If Mr. Romney made a similar move by spending the night — one measly night — in the projects, I would forever remember him as a hypocrite, too.

Does this mean Mrs. Nicholas, a former public schoolteacher, supports using the plight of poor folks to make a presidential political point?

Hardly.

As a matter of fact, she helps me keep my conservative points of view grounded in truth and reality, reminding me that regardless of where I think my station is, I must never forget that others are often less fortunate through no fault of their own.

And so it is with The Washington Times, where faith, family, freedom and service to others also have helped sustain this writer, who as a youngster imagined herself as the Mickey Mouse Club's Annette Funicello. (Go figure.)

The perdition detour: Many Americans are in a not-so-bright space as we and the candidates in the race for the White House debate who best can get us to the light at the end of the tunnel as Election Day grows near.

Record foreclosures, higher poverty and unemployment rates, increased homelessness and hunger, and the lack of formal education coupled with unbelievable rates of incarceration and unhealthy behavior pushed us into this very dark place.

If we try to emerge too quickly, we likely will lose sight of the big picture — and traditional media often miss that point.

Generally, the media get it right in a highly competitive industry that focuses on getting the news first and disseminating it quickly.

When it comes to dispensing information about the leader of the free world and his would-be replacement, it's important that the media get it right as well.

Don't you agree?

Deborah Simmons can be reach at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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